When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again
It certainly feels like rock bottom for Vancouver Whitecaps after one of the worst performances we’ve seen in their eight MLS seasons so far. The scary thing is, it isn’t. There’s still a long way to fall yet, they’re actually still third in the West after all, but the burning question after Friday night’s 6-0 demolition at Sporting Kansas City, is does this team have the moxie to halt the slide not and get back to the top or are we in for a tortuous few months of football?
Based on the team’s performance tonight, something drastic needs to happen for the former to happen. What that is we’ll analyse later, both here on the site and on the radio show. For now, this is a match recap, of sorts. More for my sanity than anything else.
I’m not a fan of Friday night games, especially ones that kick off at 6pm when I’m working till 5. So work day over, and with the wife out at a course she’s taking it, I thought I’d combine two of our podcast food sections – ‘Take Me Out’ and ‘Fish and Chips’. So, I got take out fish and chips. From Cockney Kings in Burnaby. Little was I to know that this was to be the highlight of my night.
The place was packed, so it meant I was running late for the game. Never mind, on with the radio on the drive home and my former commentary buddy Corey Basso. He’s done well for himself since out WFC2 days together. Anyway, the game seemed to be going well in those first few minutes.
Robbo had gone for a new look formation. One that promised a bit more attack. We all thought that meant with the ball and not on other players, but we’ll come to that. An adventurous 3-4-1-2. Three at the back and two strikers? What was this?! And when has anything ever gone wrong when we go with a back three?
The ‘Caps started well. Yordy Reyna appeared lively after coming back into the line-up and he should have put Vancouver ahead in the 7th minute, running onto a beautiful through ball from Anthony Blondell, getting a rare start himself. Reyna rounded KC keeper Tim Melia and with the goal gaping it looked like the opening goal was coming the Whitecaps way, but Melia recovered to make a fantastic last ditch sprawling stop to deny the Peruvian.
What a save/miss.
Fantastic run, fantastic ball, fantastic save.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 21, 2018
One of those game changing moments, although the way KC played for the rest of the match, that might just have fired them up to score even more than they did.
That Reyna chance was to be as good as it got for the ‘Caps and it was all downhill on the slippery slide after that. At one point we even questioned just how long the slide was as it seemed to show no end.
I didn’t even get to see the Reyna chance live as I was still driving home listening on the wireless, as they said back in my day. But it sounded promising. So I rushed home, put the fish and chips down on a table, stuck on the telly, just in time to see my fellow Scot Johnny Russell fire a Roger Espinoza cutback through Kendall Waston’s legs and off the fingertips of Stefan Marinovic.
KC were one up after ten minutes and there was no looking back for them after that, as Russell ran the show, and I was left eating my fish and chips and pondering what had the most battering, my haddock or the haddies in Whitecaps jerseys.
Russell added his, and KC’s, second six minutes later, a lovely individual goal where he was allowed all the time and space in the world to run at the ‘Caps defence and fire home. Quality that’s been severely lacking in the box at times from Vancouver this year.
Earlier in the day, I’d made a jokey tweet about how VAR was going to deprive Russell of his double hat-trick. Buoyed by his Scottishness and the great chat we had on this week’s preview podcast. That didn’t feel like a joke any more.
It already felt like all hope was lost, but that’s just built into me after 35 years of watching East Fife. We still had Reyna and Blondell, and they were linking up nicely together. The Venezuelan came within inches of grabbing his first MLS goal in the 23rd minute, volleying a Reyna cross just past the far post.
Russell had the ball in the back of the net for a third time at some point. I honestly can’t remember when it was in the timeline, but it was flagged for offside earlier in the move anyway, so it’s irrelevant really I guess.
But the Whitecaps defensive play was looking an absolute shambles. No-one seemed to know where they were meant to be, who they were covering, or what they were doing in the new-look line-up. The result was that the home side were running rampant, winning every 50-50 ball, forcing turnovers, and getting so much space to do what they wanted with the ball. It was starting to look embarrassing out there. Real men against boys stuff.
KC did make it three on the half hour mark, and it was the goal of the game, an absolute screamer of a dipping shot from Jimmy Medranda that flew over Marinovic and into the ‘Caps goal. No-one had even attempted to close the KC player down and Marinovic has to do better there, surprised by the speed or otherwise. Totally unacceptable, but then that was the story of the match from a Vancouver perspective.
You knew it was going to get even worse for Vancouver by this point, but perhaps not in quite the way it did.
They couldn’t even make it to half time before imploding altogether. Kendall Waston made a rash challenge on Espinoza in the 40th minute, which earned the ‘Caps captain a yellow card. Waston was furious, claiming no contact on the Honduran as he lay writhing in apparent agony on the ground.
Then all hell broke loose.
To use a good old-fashioned Scottish term, a stramash ensued. Waston stood over Espinoza, clearly fuming. Russell rushed in. There was pushing and shoving, and around 16 of the players involved. Hands were raised, Russell was thrown to the ground by Reyna. Juarez put hands to Russell’s face and apparently used some choice words. The end result (after video review) – Reyna and Juarez received straight reds and Russell a yellow. The Whitecaps goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr also received his marching orders.
Were they really red cards? In the modern game, sadly, yup, no real complaints from me for the sending offs, but Russell should have gone as well for being the instigator if you were using the same rules. You simply can’t raise your hands or throw a player to the ground and expect to stay on the pitch and these are experienced internationals doing it. Juarez though has been a red card waiting to happen since the first game.
Yes, it was a shitty decision on the foul to set it all off, and yes, frustration had clearly set in as they were being ripped apart, but the ‘Caps have to keep their heads there. The discipline at this club has been abysmal at times over the years. It seemed last season that things had turned around. but are we going back to the bad old days? And how much of it comes from being fed the “us against the world” mantra and the constant (admittedly often correct) haranguing of officials from the bench?
So 11 v 9 and it was already 3-0. No mercy rule at Children’s Mercy Park then? Just get this godforsaken game to half time already. Oh what’s that, eight fucking minutes of stoppage time. Great. Thanks VAR!
But the first half action wasn’t even over. Marcel De Jong clumsily brought Russell down in the box in the sixth minute of time added on. A clear penalty, and amazingly Russell didn’t try and take it for his hat-trick. Passing the ball instead to Ilie Sanchez, who saw his spot kick well saved by Marinovic. Finally something good for the ‘Caps! Small victories and all that.
But it was a great save.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) April 21, 2018
Finally it was half time and everyone could make sure that this was actually happening and not some kind of mushy pea fuelled nightmare. Dammit. It was the former.
The second half was always going to be one way traffic and the ‘Caps struggled to get out of their own half.
Three minutes in and Johnny Russell had his hat-trick, after being allowed to run unchecked into the box, pick up an Espinoza dummy, and chip a lovely fourth goal past Marinovic. He could have had his double hat-trick by this point.
Six minutes later and Cristian Lobata chested home number five and Yohan Croizet slotted home number six with 13 minutes remaining. There could have been another half a dozen goals in there as well but saves from Marinovic and scrambled defending kept it to the half dozen.
Marinovic finished the match with eight saves (they’re saying seven but it was definitely eight for me), two more than goals conceded. That tells you everything you need to know about how this match went.
So, positives. Well the ‘Caps avoided joining the four other teams that have suffered seven goal defeats in MLS history. And, the penalty save. Other than that I’ve got nothing.
As for the negatives, well let’s start with this:
#SKCvVAN 6-0 | 79.5%-20.5% possession, 771-200 passes, 91%-63% pass accuracy, 26-2 crosses, 8-1 corners, 34-5 shots, 14-1 shots on target, 1-7 saves, 43-31 duels won, 5-29 clearances, 3-8 fouls, 1-1 YCs, 0-2 RCs
— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) April 21, 2018
It was a disgrace. Completely unacceptable. They should be refunding the airfare, tickets, and more for those poor fans that made the trip to the Midwest.
This is a team that have now lost three in a row. They’ve given up 10 goals in those games, managing to score only one and that was a garbage time effort. They haven’t scored in 200 minutes at home, yet when they try and put out a more attacking line-up like they did tonight, they were destroyed.
And let’s not forget that they were already three down before the sending offs, so there’s no excuses there.
I’m sure there’s some people that actually think the ‘Caps full team name is Vancouver Whitecaps Nil.
On paper, this is the strongest squad the ‘Caps have had in their eight seasons and that’s even more terrifying when you look at the last three games. You can blame the coach, the players, the tactics, the front office, and more, but the reality is it’s all of the above.
It’s still very early in the season. The ‘Caps are sitting third, although not for much longer and they have played more games. It feels ridiculous to be so down on the team if you look at it that way, but this is about more than the eight games this season. This is a deep rooted concern.
We’ve asked for Robbo to change things up tactically. He did and this was the result. Where does the team go from here? This is going to be a long week of soulsearching in the squad. Next Friday’s match against RSL feels big. A defeat there and I’m glad I’m going to be out of the country for the week that follows.
FINAL SCORE: Sporting Kansas City 6 [SIX] Vancouver Whitecaps 0
KANSAS CITY: Tim Melia; Graham Zusi, Emiliano Anor, Matt Besler, Jimmy Medranda; Roger Espinoza (Felipe Gutiérrez 76), Illie Sánchez, Yohan Croizet; Johnny Russell (Cristian Lobato 52), Khiry Shelton (Diego Rubio 71), Dániel Sallói [Subs Not Used: Eric Dick, Brad Evans, Seth Sinovic, Jaylin Lindsey]
VANCOUVER: Stefan Marinovic; José Aja, Kendall Waston, Marcel de Jong; Efraín Juárez, Felipe, Aly Ghazal, Alphonso Davies (Russell Teibert 55); Yordy Reyna; Anthony Blondell (Sean Franklin 45), Brek Shea (Bernie Ibini 72) [Subs Not Used: Brian Rowe, Nicolas Mezquida, Cristian Techera, Erik Hurtado]
Thoughts on the match…
This was a very hard game. It’s fine moments in games. We started off very well, fairly even in the first 15 minutes. Then we concede and then we’re 3-0 down in 40 minutes. An incident then changes the game. We lose emotional control. We have two players sent off and then they score three goals in the second half. Not good enough. Not acceptable. Embarrassing. I let the players know. But we’ve got to brush ourselves down quickly because we’ve got a game on Friday.
On his message to the team…
You’ve got to stick together in times like this. It’s easy when you’re doing well. I certainly think that everything went against us today, from the early miss to some of the refereeing decisions. But we didn’t help ourselves. We lose two men in an incident which they started. We’ve got to be better than that. In the second half, we talked about trying to stay in the game and then catch them on the counter. We set up that way by playing a 4-3-1 with our nine men we had. Within two minutes, we’re lazy with our decision making and our detail and we’re 5-0 down before you know it. Then it becomes a game of will, mind and concentration. The guys who were on the field at the end worked as hard as they could.
On the lessons learned…
No excuses. I don’t make excuses at any stage or any time. I put 11 players on the field today that could win the game. I think they showed in the first 15 minutes that they were more than capable of doing it. Fine lines. The game is about fine lines. We didn’t get our details right in either box. You can blame deflections and things like that but I think it’s lazy defending. And we didn’t keep 11 men on the field. We have to do that or the same thing is going to happen again.
On the traveling support…
The guys that were here were brilliant. We know that. They always follow us. We do appreciate them coming. The guys will be ready next week. You want a response from players. We’re in front of our fans next week. After a disappointing result last week and a really bad result today – embarrassing really – we have to get back to work.
Thoughts on the game…
Like a lot of games we’ve played so far, we actually started off well. We had a prime opportunity in the first five minutes. Through a bit of, I guess in some cases, lackluster defending from the team as a whole, we conceded three soft goals.
On moving forward…
It’s difficult to move forward after that. You’ve got 25 professionals in the room that have been in situations like this before. It’s our job to bounce back, especially coming home, after three preventable defeats.
On the traveling support…
I can only tell the fans that when we’re at home now on Friday that they should expect to see a huge turnaround from every player that plays on that field. They deserve more than that.
SPORTING KANSAS CITY
On the team’s management of the second half…
When you’re playing against a group of guys that are just looking to defend their goal, it’s not easy to break through. The good thing is that we got some good possession in the game and we found a couple more goals with aggressive movement. We finished out the game and that was what we needed to do.
On the play of Johnny Russell…
Prior to the guys getting sent off, it was 3-0 at that point. I thought that we were very good. I think that he was very aggressive in his movements going forward. He’s starting to like this place and that’s a good thing. He’s getting his rhythm so it’s good. He was excellent tonight. But I have to say the team was very good and really locked in from the start of the game.
On extending the team’s lead atop the West…
Obviously, these are a big three points. This is our eighth game today. We knew that they were right close to us. We wanted to spread it out a little bit. Getting these points at home were really important.
Thoughts on the team’s performance…
It was good. The first three goals, before they had two guys sent off, set the tone for the rest of the game. I thought we came out the right way. We were aggressive. We were getting numbers into the box. If we’re being honest, the last 30 minutes was a bit of a formality there. Thanks to everybody for sticking around. At the end of the day, we scored six goals here at home and we kept a shut out. We got three points. All in all, it’s a great day. Now we move onto the next one.
On the team’s home field advantage…
It’s huge. We talk about getting three points every time that we play in front of these incredible fans and tonight was no different. We wanted to make sure we took care of business. We go on the road next week to New England. All in all, I think it was a great night for everybody.
On if he could have imagined becoming the team’s all-time minutes played leader…
Absolutely not. I was just trying to make the team and trying to get by every single day. The most important thing is that the team wins. It’s a bit of a weird statistic in my mind because it means I’m getting old. It’s something I’ve never thought about. I just step on the field and try to help the team win. I would say that record is the byproduct of a lot of other people – not me. I’ve been on a lot of great teams. I’ve played with some great teammates, playing in front of amazing fans. And we have an unbelievable ownership group, too. I feel like I’m a byproduct of all those things.
Thoughts on the performance…
It was great. Right off the bat, we took it to them. We scored right away. When we found opportunities, we finished them.
On the 6-0 margin of victory…
We tried to keep the ball. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. With Vancouver only having eight field players, we knew they were going to put them all on top of the 18 and it was going to be difficult to score. But we were able to find spaces.
On the home support…
Thank you to the fans for showing up every gameday and supporting us. We were very happy that they were able to make it tonight. Keep supporting us!
On Johnny Russell’s hat trick…
I just give the ball to Johnny and he can go score. He’s the one that gives me the most assists. He’s been great for us and I hope he keeps going with his streak.